Diabetes Took Away My Childhood — A Teen’s Perspective

5/12/17
WRITTEN BY: Ethan Rath
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How long is seven years? For me, that’s half of my entire life. Seven years ago, I was in first grade. On 11/9/09, seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. We thought I had a flu, but this was much worse. I was so tired and thirsty, breathing heavy and peeing a lot, but we didn’t know why. Little did we know, everything in my life was about to change. How I ate, how I slept, how I felt about needles, what I did in my free time and how to do my absolute favorite thing, snowboarding.

From November to late June, my family and I go snowboarding almost every single week. You can imagine … the altitude, the adrenaline, the strenuous physical activity, and the fun … it all takes a toll on my blood sugar. I’m usually low when we are going up the mountain, so that means glucose and sugar load on the way there. I check my sugar again before we go, and I’m most likely low again, meaning more sugar then off to ride. There’s a very good chance I will be low at LEAST once more throughout the day, causing everyone to stop for me and wait while I eat some more sugar and retest.

Going back down the mountain to get home, my sugar likes to go back up, way up, and now we have to treat it with extra insulin doses for the rest of the night to try and get back into a “normal” range. I’m willing to do all of this extra stuff in order to do this activity I love … but it’s also really annoying and frustrating, and it could be very dangerous if I’m not paying close attention.

What is it like living every day with Type 1 diabetes? Imagine living a life with a huge weight on your back, almost like you never really get to fully live. You’re constantly in a state of fear because you never know what could happen, you don’t know if your blood sugar will remain stable through the night, and you don’t know if you’ll wake up in the morning. Isn’t that terrifying?

You hear all these jokes about diabetes and suddenly you feel self-conscious about yourself. You pretend you don’t care, but you really do. All you want to do is cry. It makes you think, why do people make jokes about diabetes? You NEVER hear jokes about cancer and other diseases do you? So why diabetes?!

It’s a life where you have to depend on a bottle of insulin just to survive!! You can’t always do what your friends do, so you feel embarrassed. When most people hear that you have diabetes, they don’t feel sorry for you. They immediately say, “Oh, you have diabetes? But you’re not fat?” or “Did you get it from eating too much sugar, food, and not eating healthy?”

If you take one look at me, you should probably take that back, I’m thin and athletic. What really happened is that my pancreas was attacked by my white blood cells which caused it to no longer be able to produce my own vital insulin to survive.

Not everybody understands that this disease can KILL you.

I live with that fear every single day. I promise you almost every diabetic thinks this as I do … I don’t hate diabetes for the finger pricks and injections; they aren’t nice but they are bearable. I HATE diabetes for taking away my childhood. I hate it for making it almost impossible to be spontaneous! I hate it for making me scared.

Diabetes has made me so much stronger, more mature, and responsible. But it has also made me exhausted and anxious. I hate it for never giving me a break, for being constant and relentless. I hate it for throwing everything back into my face when I have worked so hard. I’ve put in SO much effort. I hate it for bringing me down and for knocking me down until I have nothing left. And I hate it for making me as strong as I can be and then breaking me down into a puddle of tears and frustration.

But I’m also hopeful that diabetes won’t be a life-long battle, and hopefully someday soon they can find a cure, because none of us asked for this disease. Even though us Type 1s can handle the pain and struggle every day, we don’t deserve to. I hope one day I won’t have to explain how hard life with Type 1 diabetes is, but instead how amazing it is to live life WITHOUT Type 1 diabetes.


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Ethan Rath

Ethan is 13 years old. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 6 years old on 11/9/09. Ethan is an excellent student, a snowboarder, a flag football player, a goofball, a caring big brother, and he is the strength and glue in our family. He wanted to submit this short essay he wrote in hopes of educating others about the struggles and hardships of living with T1D.